Sydney: See the city like a local

Bursting with celebrated sites, Sydney should be on everyone’s hitlist. Helping you delve that bit deeper, Trailfinders expert John Blower reveals where to head to get the most out of this buzzing metropolis

By Trailfinders and Destination New South Wales
Published 17 May 2019, 12:14 BST
Sydney during the Vivid Sydney festival.

Sydney during the Vivid Sydney festival.

Photograph by Destination New South Wales

Finding your feet
It can be daunting knowing where to start in Sydney, but the answer is simple: a tour of the city, either on an open-top hop-on hop-off bus, or in air-conditioned comfort on a luxury Sydney coach tour. Not only do these tours take in all the famous sites, but they’re also a great way to get a feel for the city and will make navigating that bit easier for the rest of your stay.

Both the Sydney Harbour Bridge and Sydney Opera House are, of course, unmissable — but don’t make the mistake of returning home without seeing inside this world-famous building. Join one of the daily behind-the-scenes tours; they’re nice and bitesize, lasting about an hour, and guides are both knowledgeable and enthusiastic.

Sydney Harbour Bridge.

Photograph by Getty Images

Neighbourhoods and nightlife
Sydney is a very walkable city, and its wealth of trendy areas each have their own unique character. Take Surry Hills and Paddington, for example, renowned for their quaint streets and colourful architecture, and both within easy distance of the city centre.

Located harbourside, The Rocks, meanwhile, is full of old dock buildings and warehouses that have been painstakingly restored and converted into a fantastic array of hotels, shops, bars and restaurants. On weekends, several roads are closed off for The Rocks Markets, where you can browse stalls selling everything from art and homewares to gourmet street food.

Come evening, take a tour of Sydney's emerging brewhouse and small bar scene. Contemporary venues like Papa Gede's Bar and Ramblin' Rascal Tavern sit tucked away in basements, down alleyways or in loading docks.

Elsewhere, the newly renovated Darling Harbour is home to some fantastic waterside restaurants and bars. For a meal with a view, head to Shangri-La Hotel on Circular Quay, where fine dining is paired with vistas of the city’s famous skyline. Alternatively, head to the Sydney Tower Eye with its revolving restaurant, and experience a 360-degree view of the city as you dine.

Surry Hills.

Photograph by Getty Images

Laid-back vibes
Sydney’s beaches are as famous as the city itself. While Bondi is the biggest name on the block, Bronte, Tamarama and the gorgeous Manly (just 20 minutes by Fast Ferry service from Circular Quay) aren’t to be missed. Ferries run until late, so it’s easy to escape the city and explore Manly into the evening. The twinkling lights as you approach Sydney Harbour on the return leg is worth the journey in itself.

Set around the world's largest natural harbour, Sydney offers no shortage of boat excursions. Set off on a Sydney Harbour Morning Cruise or, for something really special, opt for a luxury yacht cruise and sail past the sites while you sit back with a glass of champagne. 

In search of some greenery? Take a stroll around the Royal Botantic Garden and enjoy enjoying the fabulous harbour views, then take a seat on the legendary Mrs Macquarie's Chair.  Barangaroo Reserve, Sydney’s newest waterfront park, is another great place for escaping the hustle and bustle.

Manly Beach.

Photograph by Getty Images

Fun for all the family
A short ferry ride from Circular Quay, Taronga Zoo affords amazing views of the Sydney skyline — but, of course, it’s the animals that are the main attraction here. Take it to the next level and sign up to the Roar and Snore experience: you'll spend a night at the zoo in a safari-style tent and have the chance to get up close and personal to some of its more friendly residents. A guided night-time safari is followed by two behind-the-scenes tours the following morning. The little ones are sure to love it.

To book your ideal trip to New South Wales, get in touch with a Trailfinders expert like John, here.

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